Election Thoughts: Twitter and Nate Silver

The election is over and we can get on with our lives.  For me, living in Colorado meant that our television stations were nothing but ads either telling us that Romney was a bastard or that Obama was incompetent.  I know people who believe those messages and I don’t want to really talk about whether they’re right or wrong. It’s just exhausting.

I loved watching my Twitter feed on election night. I have to say that for live, unpredictable events like disasters, elections, and sports, – twitter really shines.  That said, i was also really impressed with the coverage on television.  The big board on CNN was way more informative with actual stats than any other medium. They knew where things were going down, when they were happening, and why. Twitter was snarky and fun but TV was actually helpful.

The big winner to me for this election was Nate Silver.  If you don’t know Nate, and I didn’t until a little it ago, he’s a guy who first gained recognition for developing a system for forecasting the performance of professional baseball players.  One day he woke up and wanted to the same for politicians.  Last election in 2008, he built FiveThirtyEight.com (538 is the total number of electoral votes out there) and used his crazy smart algorithms to predict, with really cool charts, who would win.  When the final votes came in, he correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 state and all 35 Senate races that year.  Way closer than almost every one else.   Continue reading “Election Thoughts: Twitter and Nate Silver”

Lewis Thoughts: Politics Edition

This election is nasty. I don’t really like the message coming out of both camps.  But, i see their respective points.  Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to list what i like and don’t like about each candidate.

Romney: Pros

  • Wants to shrink government in many ways. Less regulation, less agencies, less spending all over the place. I love this. I totally agree.  Our government is way too large and does way too many things.  We should push lots of it back to the states if possible and just stop it in other places.
  • Wants to reduce the deficit and get back to being fiscal conservative.

Romney: Cons

  • Women. Abortion and birth control.  I feel that women should have access to both and I don’t like any candidate who shoots to make abortion illegal, who wants to elect Supreme Court justices who are against it, or one who feels like birth control is a bad thing in America.  This is just so far away from my way of thinking.
  • Wars. I want to be involved in as few wars as possible.  If i was a politician, i’d propose a strategy called “not my problem” and do everything i can to support the UN but would do almost nothing independently.  I’d do everything i can to not start new engagements.  Romney’s plan is basically the opposite of this.  He wants the US to re-assert themselves. He wants to increase government spending in defense.  I prefer we decrease it.
  • Heath Care.  Obamacare is a massive piece of legislation. It has lots of rules and has govenment telling a lot of people what to do.  I don’t necessarily like that.  However, every single person i’ve talked to who works in health care says that without Obamacare, we’re in a much bigger mess.  Prior to Obamacare, we were footing the bill for any non-insured person to get treatment in ER’s.  Is Obamacare perfect? No. Is there a better alternative on the table?  No. Is repealing Obamacare a good thing? Not from where i sit.  Romney seems against it because (a) it was proposed by the opposing party; (b) he’d prefer, in a perfect world, it was done by states.  So, he’s little the perfect be the enemy of the good.
  • Social Welfare. We have a lot of poor people in our country and i don’t think we can just ignore them and tell them to get jobs and do better. It’s our responsibility as a nation to handle their plight in a decent way. I’m not exactly what that is, but I’m pretty sure that Romney will do nothing to make their lives better except try to help the country as a whole and hope that the country then will solve this problem for him. His lack of empathy (see his 47% video) really doesn’t want me to have this man as our next President.

Obama Pros

  • Foreign Policy. I like how he’s bringing troops home. I like how he got Bin Laden. I like in general how he’s representing America to other countries.  He’s not arrogant and is respectful.
  • Personality.  I have to admit, i think he’s a pretty cool dude. This shouldn’t matter, but i just want to state it.  He seems quite relatable. He’s into sports, pop culture and seems to understand the world that I live in.
  • Energy policy. I like that he’s so in to new energy. I’m into it too.  On the flip side, I actually wish he’d stop with the loans to new energy companies, but I like that he’s not just handing cash and favors over to the oil companies.  They’re doing fine without our government’s help.
  • Stabilizing the ship.  In 2008, we were in a shit sandwich (520k jobs being lost a month, 1.2 million in 4 months), now we’re not (growing 120k a month). I’m happy for that turnaround, and in general, i do feel like the economy is getting better and recovering. It’s not as fast as everyone would hope, but but, we’re not headed in the wrong direction.

Obama Cons

  • Big Government. He seems fine to increase the size of the government. Government has increased dramatically under his term. His response on how he’s going to fix the economy is to hire more teachers. I like teachers, but that doesn’t seem like the right answer.  I want the government smaller and i think he’s moving us in the wrong direction.
  • Deficit. National debt from 00′, ’04,’08, and ’11 is (in trillions): 0.5, 0.7, 1.0, and 1.4 (source).  That is just too much.  I think Obama believes that it’s ok to run a yearly deficit the size that it is. I’m okay with some national debt, but i’d like it to be smaller, i’d like a plan to pay down our debt, and i don’t want us ever running a yearly deficit. That i think is irresponsible. I believe that Obama says he wants to balance the budget and pay down debt because it’s popular to say, but I don’t actually think he’ll really do anything to bring it down.
  • Change. I used to think that he’d bring more transparency and transformational ideas to government.  I thought he’d change how the President interacts with the public.  I have been disappointed. I still think he’s got the good ideas, but I don’t think he’s had the balls in the past to do them.  Maybe this could happen in a second term when he’s not worried about re-election, but i’ve been disappointed thus far.

As you can see, there aren’t that many pro’s for Omaba but there a lot of cons for Romney.  That’s pretty much where i stand.  Here’s how I’m leaning for the remaining few weeks until the election:

What Romney has to do to win my vote

Romney needs to make me actually believe that he’s not a dooche and won’t just say whatever he needs to say to get elected.  I honestly don’t believe anything coming out of his mouth. I’d like to want to vote for him so we can reduce the size government, but I have no idea where his loyalties lie. I have no reason to believe that it is with people we can trust and instead I feel that it’s with the 1% who will be happy to pad their coffers and let the rest of the country (99%) go to hell.

What Obama would have to do to lose my vote

He has to keep acting like he doesn’t care about the economy, the deficit or what’s going in America.  He’s giving those issues lip service, but i’m not hearing anything that makes me believe.  I hate that he answers most questions with “I want to hire teachers.”  Right now I haven’t heard one thing out of his mouth that makes me want to vote for him other than that he’s not Mitt Romney – which is a pretty good point.

PS: the world “Romney-con” and “Obama-con” are pretty fun to say. Just pointing that out.

Looking back at 2011

Some things i’ll remember about 2011:

Steve Jobs’ Death & Legacy. As Esquire says…

No one ever died the way Steve Jobs died. Other people have died of cancer. Other people have died in the public eye.  But no one has ever died with the inexorable logic of their mortality feeding into a logic of expectation that they themselves created and aroused.

Reading about Steve Jobs in 2011 was a terrific experience.  He inspired me to take my passion in products to the next level.  He was truly a special individual and will be missed.

Mavericks vs. Heat. The stage was set: a team of underdogs who lost to the Heat in 2006 vs. a team of selfish divas. Down 2-1 and nearly 3-1, the scappy Mavs fought back and took the title in the most exciting NBA Finals I’ve ever seen. Continue reading “Looking back at 2011”

“Cable Channel” Presidents

I recently listened to an interesting podcast interview of Chris Rock.  One phrase he mentioned was that George W. Bush was the first “Cable-Channel President.” What he meant by this is that you used to have candidates and presidents that attempted to appeal to the entire country – similar to Network television – but now you have presidents and candidates that try to appeal only to their audience – like Cable channels – and don’t care about nationwide approval.  

This is an interesting concept, because if you try to appeal to everyone – like a Network show – you tend to appear successful or correct only a fraction of the time to most voters, but if you focus on a niche, you’ll be loved by some and strongly disliked by everyone else.  The highs are higher but the lows are lower.  

You can definitely see this play out in American politics today.  Instead of trying to appeal to everyone and find a middle ground, candidates simply talk to their niche and alienate everyone else.  In most categories such as music, film, education, etc. I love this as it allows me to find exactly what resonates with me, but when you’re trying to run a country, i don’t think it works.   

The Real Deal with the Recession and Jobs

I hear a lot these days about job creation and growth and the economy.  I really do worry about people who have have been out of job for over a year.  Not working is totally destructive to a persons self-confidence and self-worth (not to mention bank account) and anyone out of the workforce for extended periods of time are in a really bad place. 

It seems that there are two recessions going on:  (1) the usually cyclical one and (2) the loss of factory jobs to the internet and overseas workers.   #1 will return, but #2 is gone forever for the US.  It’s not coming back.

Instead we should focus on the future.  I read a good post today by Seth Godin where he writes about this very topic.  He states:

When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a ‘real’ job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn’t a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

Gears are going to be shifted regardless. In one direction is lowered expectations and plenty of burger flipping. In the other is a race to the top, in which individuals who are awaiting instructions begin to give them instead.

The future feels a lot more like marketing–it’s impromptu, it’s based on innovation and inspiration, and it involves connections between and among people–and a lot less like factory work, in which you do what you did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.

This means we may need to change our expecations, change our training and change how we engage with the future. Still, it’s better than fighting for a status quo that is no longer. The good news is clear: every forever recession is followed by a lifetime of growth from the next thing…

Job creation is a false idol. The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.

This revolution is at least as big as the last one, and the last one changed everything.

 I like that. Let’s move forward rather than trying to bring back the past. 

Obama and ASU

i have a few things to say about Obama’s commencement address at ASU this week.

First, i think the address itself was really good.  I like how he keep’s it real.  Even though he now officially part of “The System” he can still talk about short-term election-winning activities and doing what’s good for the country.  That makes me happy.  He says:

In the face of these challenges, it may be tempting to fall back on the formulas for success that have dominated these recent years. Many of you have been taught to chase after the usual brass rings: being on this “who’s who” list or that top 100 list; how much money you make and how big your corner office is; whether you have a fancy enough title or a nice enough car.

You can take that road – and it may work for some of you. But at this difficult time, let me suggest that such an approach won’t get you where you want to go; that in fact, the elevation of appearance over substance, celebrity over character, short-term gain over lasting achievement is precisely what your generation needs to help end.

I also thought it was cool how he was able to relate Winston Churchill to Kurt Warner:

Just look to history. Thomas Paine was a failed corset maker, a failed teacher, and a failed tax collector before he made his mark on history with a little book called Common Sense that helped ignite a revolution. Julia Child didn’t publish her first cookbook until she was almost fifty, and Colonel Sanders didn’t open up his first Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was in his sixties. Winston Churchill was dismissed as little more than a has-been, who enjoyed scotch just a bit too much, before he took over as Prime Minister and saw Great Britain through its finest hour. And no one thought a former football player stocking shelves at the local supermarket would return to the game he loved, become a Super Bowl MVP, and then come here to Arizona and lead your Cardinals to their first Super Bowl.

Each of them, at one point in their life, didn’t have any title or much status to speak of. But they had a passion, a commitment to following that passion wherever it would lead, and to working hard every step along the way.

But by far my favorite thing about him going to ASU and not getting an honorary degree is The Daily Show skit about it.  They just take ASU apart.  Click to watch:

Picture 13

Obama poster drama


I heard a great podcast yesterday on NPR about the iconic Obama poster (seen above). The poster is done by a fascinating artist named Shepherd Fairey.  It’s a little known fact that Fairey is also responsible for the Andre The Giant “OBEY” sketches that i remember from the 90’s.  He really gets around.

In this case, Fairey took a photo he found on Google and then altered the neck, the eyes and the colors (and cropped out George Clooney) to make a poster than came to symbolize the campaign.  Shepherd always claimed that he made the poster from an Associated Press photo and about a month ago, it was finally determined which photo he used and who the photographer was. It was a photo of Obama sitting at a press event in Darfur with George Clooney.


All this would be nice and peachy except that because the photo was an AP photo, the AP came to Fairey and threatened to sue if he didn’t dish out a percentage of revenue he made from the poster. Fairey acknowledged that he’s willing to pay the standard license fee and attribute the photo to the original photographer but he won’t be bullied into paying.  So, instead he sued the AP in an attempt to discourage companies from punishing artists for creating art.

While his argument stands on fair use, to me the real issue is about people making derivative works. It’s the 21st century and lots of people take lots of images and transforming them into art. If each is penalized into paying a bounty for the original source we’re limiting and hurting society.

In this day and age, users are both consumers and creators of content.  So many YouTube videos have copyrighted works in them.  Last week there was a huge fiasco around Facebook’s Terms of Service when they claimed they owned all user uploaded material.  Thankfully, they backed off.  But the backlash from the users illustrates that ownership of property, attribution, and sharing is really important to the web.

If anything this just leads me more and more into believing in Creative Commons. It’s truly the only mechanism that let’s people properly manage their rights

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A power, pop-culture, family

i just realized this:

Obama’s chief of staff is a guy named Rahm Emanuel.  Two interesting facts about him i learned from his Wikipedia entry:

  1. He was the inspiration for the character Josh Lyman on Aaron Sorkin‘s The West Wing.  My sister would know better but i believe he was pretty cool
  2. Rahm’s brother, Ari Emanuel, is the inspiration for the character Ari on HBO’s Entourage (Jeremy Piven).

Is that not an amazing made-for-tv family?!  I wonder if they sit around the dinner table over Thanksgiving and talk about which fictional character is cooler?   While Lyman is probably a better person, i’d give the edge to Ari as he’s much more entertaining and popular.   What do you think?

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Two more throughts about Obama

Rev. Santino endorses Barack Obama for Preside...

First….Imagine a goat farmer in Kenya in 1958.  A goat farmer.  Now imagine that he has a child.  Now imagine that this child grows up to become President of the United States.  It’s just so incredible.  Wow

Second….in my last post about Obama, i talked about the transparency that he might bring to the office.  Now he’s launched www.change.gov which has a blog, details of action and tracking of projects and plans.  Now that’s what i’m talking about.  I like it.